Cognition and brain function in elderly Tai Chi practitioners: A case-control study

Explore (NY). 2018 Sep;14(5):352-356. doi: 10.1016/j.explore.2018.04.007. Epub 2018 Jul 20.


Objective: To compare cognition and brain function in elderly Tai Chi and Water Aerobics practitioners.

Methods: Eight Tai Chi (TC) and 8 Water Aerobics (WA) practitioners matched by gender, education and age underwent neuropsychological and fMRI scan during attention (Stroop Word Color Task) and working memory (N Back) tasks.

Results: Groups were similar for demographic and cognitive variables. Besides anxiety (smaller in TC group), there were no differences between groups in neuropsychological variables. During the Stroop Word Color Task, TC group had smaller brain activation in the right intracalcarine cortex, lateral occipital cortex, and occipital pole, than WA. During N back, TC group presented smaller brain activation in the right frontal pole and superior frontal gyrus.

Conclusion: Despite the small number of participants in this preliminary study, both groups had similar cognitive performance, however the Tai Chi group required less brain activation to perform the attention and memory tasks, therefore they may have a more efficient cognitive performance than Water Aerobics group.

Keywords: Elders; Gait; Magnetic resonance; Neuropsychological test; Tai chi.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Anxiety
  • Attention*
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Cognition*
  • Exercise / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods
  • Male
  • Memory, Short-Term*
  • Middle Aged
  • Tai Ji / psychology*
  • Water


  • Water